Indianapolis entrepreneur Ken Thorpe is well known for his achievements in business.
By any measure, he is a model of success, leading several companies in a variety of markets, from construction, entertainment and finance, to health care and retail.
Now, Thorpe is working to help the next generation of entrepreneurs get a strong start, and has announced the formation of a new foundation to reach that goal.
His newly formed Ken Thorpe Foundation will focus on professional development opportunities for low-income and underserved youth in Marion County.
"I believe that regardless of one's current situation, success is obtainable if given the right tools," Thorpe said. "The purpose of the foundation is to provide youth with education, professional and mentoring opportunities to help them help themselves. Sometimes, all a person needs is encouragement and a platform. Our job is to provide both."
Thorpe's foundation will start with an educational focus by offering the A.R.T. of Excellence Scholarship (A.R.T. stands for accountability, results and transcendence) and an internship program.
"These are the three important characteristics I believe one must have to be successful," Thorpe said.
Each year $1,000 scholarships and paid work opportunities will be awarded to two seniors at Warren Central High School who have continuously improved their grades over time, are accepted to Ball State or Indiana University, and can best describe how accountability, results and transcendence contribute to their success.
Students are invited to submit applications for the scholarship until March 1. Thorpe said as the foundation expands, scholarships will be given to students from other schools.
Thorpe, himself a graduate of Warren Central High School, remembers how tough it was for many students, even those such as himself who did fairly well in class, to get a scholarship if they were not affiliated with an honors program. Also, being raised by a single mother raising three children, Thorpe knew that his family could not afford to send him to college, and he would have to take on the burden of getting there himself.
That experience, Thorpe said, has given the desire to provide financial awards to young men and women with an interest in entrepreneurship.
However, he noted that aspiring entrepreneurs also benefit from mentoring and hands-on experience in a real business environment, which is why his foundation will also provide students the choice of an internship opportunity with one of his companies.
After earning bachelor's and master's degrees from Indiana University, Ball State University and Indiana Wesleyan University, Thorpe found a well-paying corporate job, but dreamed of starting a business. He developed the courage and motivation to seize his dream after being encouraged by William "Bill" Mays, founder of Mays Chemical Co., one of the most successful companies in the chemical distribution industry.
"He really gave me insight and encouragement that basically said to me, 'Hey man, if I can do it, you can do it. If that's what you want to do you have to prepare yourself and take that leap,'" said Thorpe. "Oftentimes, we get caught up in corporate America and we're making good money with a safety net. It becomes hard to pull away, but you have to commit to entrepreneurship and be totally in to be successful."
Thorpe added that he wants to help students see beyond the fundamental thoughts of education, which involve graduating from high school, getting a degree from college, landing a decent job then starting a family.
"Traditionally we have been programmed and taught that way," said Thorpe. "But when you have options and someone opens your eyes to other possibilities such as starting your own business and still be able to provide for your family while being more fulfilled with your own company. That's something they don't necessarily teach in school. Had they done that, I would have become an entrepreneur even earlier."
For more information and to apply for the scholarship, visit kenthorpefoundation.org.
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